Low morale a blight on Defence Department, says research

by L&D13 Oct 2016
A lack of leadership and respect, along with poor communication and stalled pay negotiations, have contributed to low morale among civilian staff at the Defence Department according to research released under freedom of information laws.
The research, carried out by YourSay and presented to management in March, found that public servants in the Defence Department are more likely to be unhappy with their pay and work conditions than Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, who have separate agreements. The report also found that low morale had been a significant factor in a number of public servants leaving the department since 2013.
The report indicates that 2015 marked a nadir for morale within the department, when 27 percent of public servants who responded to the survey were actively seeking jobs outside of the department – up on 10 percent in 2013.
Nearly half of respondents described morale as ‘low’ or ‘very low’ in February 2015, with just 16 percent considering morale ‘high’ or ‘very high’.
A significant reason identified for the low morale was inadequate leadership, with respondents citing poor planning, a lack of direction regarding roles, and micro-management. One comment took aim at “a lack of respect, a lack of fairness and a non-inclusive environment”. Furthermore, staff motivation was negatively affected by confusion regarding organisation restructuring and downsizing.
In addition, one-fifth of those surveyed pointed to poor employment conditions and ongoing pay negotiations as reasons for low morale.
The report stated, “APS workplace morale was found to have declined over the past two years, in contrast with the permanent ADF which has improved over the same time.
“The association of workplace morale with employee engagement, productivity, resilience, organisational commitment and retention provides a basis for Defence to invest in improving workplace morale.”
Between September 2015 and February 2016, 1,095 public servants left the Defence Department, with 246 taking voluntary redundancies.